Most educators are already working on ways to build relationships with their students. There are hundreds of articles about this subject on websites and popular blogs and teachers have tons of strategies up their sleeves. However, many of these lists just aren’t focused on knocking walls down and truly going beyond the surface to build life-altering relationships with students. You can connect with your students at a deeper level when you’re invested in appreciating, respecting, and leveraging the cultural assets of all students in the room. Here we’ve listed 10 intentional relationship-building strategies that help you do this:
1. Culture Identity Cards: Have students fold a piece of cardstock in half and prop up on their desk. Every day during class, teachers will ask students reflective questions. Students respond to these questions by writing down key words/phrases on specific areas of the card. For example, the back of the card may be reserved for all of the people that have positively impacted the student throughout their life. Teachers can leverage key concepts from the card to connect content to student experiences. Teachers can also copy these at the end of the quarter and give to parents or display in the room.
2. Advice Sessions: We’ve seen teachers set aside a small chunk of time at the end of the day or after lunch for advice sessions with students. The teacher will pose different questions about their life to the class and students can take turns responding. This is effective because when students feel like you’re not just presenting content to them, but they’re adding value to your life and the classroom, then they become invested in you as their teacher.
3. Six-Word Stories: This is a great strategy to use at the beginning of the year. Six-word stories are sentences or phrases developed by each student to describe themselves, an event, or any topic that the classroom agrees on. These could be private and reflective or posted around the room as a way for students to get to know one another. These stories could also be developed after a particularly poignant lesson or discussion to summarize their understanding.
4. Student as Co-Teacher: More than just group presentations, this one truly invests students in learning from and growing with their peers. As a teacher, you can work with a student to co-plan and teach a lesson or topic with you for the entire period.
5. Scenario Jar: At the beginning of the month, each student writes down a scenario that requires problem-solving. Teachers put these scenarios in a jar, pull out a scenario, and allow students to problem solve and share their responses individually, in partners, in groups or as a class during whole group instruction. This shows students how their peers would solve situations in their lives and helps create a solutions-oriented classroom.
6. Affirm and Push: “Affirm & push” is a concept where you respond to someone by affirming one thing they said and pushing on another thing. This becomes a tool to use in a classroom when students are interacting with content, practicing critical thinking skills, or sharing perceptions and opinions. When a student shares out loud, the teacher will affirm one or more things that a student says but pushes the student to think about something differently. The teacher should model this early in the year then students can learn how to do this back to the teacher and with each other in a respectful manner. This creates an environment that is critically conscious; it is a safe way to be asset-based while also challenging. This also helps create growth mindsets in your students by pushing them from good to great.
7. 30 for 30: ESPN often shows a 30-minute segment about a life-changing event. Teachers can assign one student a week where the floor is theirs to share their story (failures, successes, etc.). This is a more relational version of “show & tell” where students learn at a deep level about their peers and practice being respectful listeners.
8. Project for Purpose: Teachers can let students vote on a service project to do together as a class, either on or off-campus. This can take place over the course of an entire quarter or semester. With all of the benefits that come from volunteering, students will also learn how to create and problem-solve (possibly if fundraising is needed) and teachers get the opportunity to affirm what every student is contributing along the way.
9. What I Learned From You: This is a time for the teacher to reflect with the class what they learned from the class as a whole or each individual student. This could be done at the end of each week or quarter by shouting out individual students or naming class accomplishments. Teachers can also have the students participate by talking to the whole class about what they learned from each other.
10. Restorative Justice Circles: Teachers can consciously build community by having students stand in a circle and reflect in a meaningful way. This could be 5 minute or 30-minute activity, but the teacher must guarantee that every student is making a contribution into the circle so that a small group of students don’t dominate the conversation. This helps create equity by guaranteeing 100% of student voice and creates affect because students have to face each other with their bodies using open body language. The teacher then directs students to make moves such as ‘shake a hand with some else in the circle’, ‘thank someone else in the circle’, ‘acknowledge someone else in the circle’, etc.
In schools across the country, we’ve seen that when teachers have students collaborate to solve problems in the classroom as a community and when the classroom celebrates each member of its community, that can add value to each other, the teacher, or a larger community-based purpose. Do you have other outside-the-box ideas to share with us? Comment below, write to us on Facebook, or Tweet us.
by William Sprankles, Director of Innovative Teaching and Learning at Butler Tech in Hamilton, OH and Katy McArthur, Communications Manager for CT3
For further reading, visit the posts below:
- Three Relationship-Building Strategies Found in Your Classroom Library
- How to Build Relationships Quickly
- 3 Tips for Transforming Relationships with Parents From Day One
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